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Hola restaurant to introduce halal Mexican to Plymouth Rd.

It's not often that a genuinely new genre of food finds its way into the diverse Ann Arbor restaurant scene, but restaurateur Ali Hijazi believes his new venture, Hola, will be serving the city's first halal Mexican food.
Though the concept is new, Hijazi is confident Hola will be a great fit – and he knows a thing or two about both restaurants and the neighborhood. 
"I live in this neighborhood," says Hijazi, who has been in the restaurant business for two decades. "I know what additions will make the community here happy to see."
Hola is expected to open in August in a 2,200 square-foot location on Plymouth Rd. between the Songbird Café and Curry Up restaurants. The former office space has been under renovation for some time.
Hijazi is working with a Mexican business partner who will specialize in the food end of the business. As Hola becomes established, the partners plan to expand into breakfast and late night food, as well as expand their staff, which will begin with the partners and family help. 
"We'll let the food and the service talk about itself," Hijazi says. "We're trying to make it a very nice addition to the north campus area."

Source: Ali Hijazi, Hola
Writer: Natalie Burg

Balance Massage Therapy doubles footprint in Dixboro

Had founder and managing partner of Balance Massage Therapy Josie Ann Lee and her co-owner and head therapist Chris Draybuck not needed to comply with a five-mile non-compete clause with a former employer of Draybuck's, they might never have considered Dixboro as a home for their business. As it turns out, Lee says, it was the best decision they ever made. 
"It's been the biggest blessing," says Lee. "I'm so happy we ended up in Dixboro. People don't mind driving out here, and it's so peaceful."
Since opening in 2008 with a minimal staff, Balance Massage Therapy has done nothing but grow. To accommodate their staff of 20 therapists, six office employees and the 14,000 massages they're on course to complete this year, Lee and Draybuck recently completed an expansion of their Plymouth Rd. location. The expansion grew their 1,200 square-foot office into a 3,200 square-foot space with 11 massage rooms. All of which, Lee says, will help Balance Massage stick to their mission of great service to both their clients and employees.
"Our focus is always on our clients, and the most important clients are our team," says Lee. "They have enjoyed working there to have a good impact on the business. We want to make sure it's a mutually beneficial relationship for them, and for the community."
Work on the expansion began in 2012 and was unveiled in February. Lee immediately hired three new front desk employees afterward. After adding two to three new massage therapists last fall, she anticipates adding another two therapists this coming fall. 
Lee says Balance Massage's next focus is extending their investment in the community, including more charitable giving. 

Source: Josie Ann Lee, Balance Massage Therapy
Writer: Natalie Burg

Comprehensive streetscape planning set for downtown Ann Arbor

There's no doubt that downtown Ann Arbor feels uniquely like downtown Ann Arbor. On the other hand, points out Amber Miller, a planning & research specialist for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, standing on a sidewalk on Huron St. near Main feels very different than walking down State St. near campus. In order to create a unified experience throughout downtown that is appropriate to each diverse area, the Ann Arbor DDA is launching a study to create a comprehensive plan.
"The city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor DDA work to ensure that public and private investments help foster a great sidewalk experience that is reflective of the personality of our downtown," says Miller. "A Streetscape Framework Plan is a technical document to help us in pursuit of this goal."
"Streetscape" elements include all of the things that add to the look and feel of public spaces in downtown (sort of like landscaping, but with less focus on plants – get it?). This includes lighting, signage, street furniture, sidewalk cafes, storm water management and more. Because private developers, business owners, and public entities are constantly developing and redeveloping downtown spaces, the plan will act as a guideline for all to follow.
The Streetscape Framework Plan development is intended to be as collaborative as its eventual use.
"A collaborative approach will allow us to come together to create guidelines that help us prioritize the quality-of-place needs of the sidewalk, while also meeting commercial, technical and environmental needs," Miller says.  "In a nutshell, we can foster a wonderful pedestrian experience, even as we are meeting city technical needs, improving community sustainability efforts, and helping downtown to thrive."
DDA staff and interns will begin documenting existing street conditions and types in the next few weeks. Miller anticipates a project consultant will be hired in late fall or early next year. The collaborative process will begin in March of 2014, with completion of the study expected by early 2015.

Source: Amber Miller, Ann Arbor DDA
Writer: Natalie Burg

Clarity Quest grows into new Stadium Blvd. location

Growth is nothing new for Ann Arbor's Clarity Quest Marketing, which has been adding staff, increasing revenues, and adding new locations at a regular clip. Now, all of that growth has led the business to expand into a new, 800 square-foot location on Stadium Blvd. 
"We were getting a little cramped," says Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing. "We moved for the purposes of having more conference room space, and free parking for our clients."
In its downtown Ann Arbor location, Clarity Quest shared meeting space with a neighboring business. Now with its own dedicated conference room, Slocumb says the company can focus more on training, as well as other areas of the business that require more space. 
"We have a lot more room for creative sessions and brainstorming with clients," says Slocumb. "We've been getting a lot of requests for strategic work, so that really demands a lot of brainstorming." 
Clarity Quest moved into its new location on July 1. Slocumb anticipates the business to continue to grow, adding up to two additional full-time staff over the next year, as well as two more interns in the near future. 

Source: Christine Slocumb, Clarity Quest
Writer: Natalie Burg

Kids Fashion Jungle triples in size at new Dexter location

Just a year after opening in a small location in Manchester, the children's resale and retail shop, Kids Fashion Jungle, is preparing to open in a new, larger location in Dexter. 
"Now we can breathe," says owner Tamara Douglas. "We had a lot of stuff stored in the back and had stuff stacked up to the ceiling. We just didn't have enough space." 
Kids Fashion Jungle will nearly triple their space in the new location, going from just over 800 square feet to 2,400. With the additional room, Douglas plans to carry bigger merchandise, as well as add a kids' entertainment element to the jungle-themed store. A craft room will be created where children can get creative. 
"Kids can come in and do a fun, creative gift for under 10 dollars," says Douglas. "We're just trying to make it a fun place for kids in different ways." 
The new store is scheduled to open July 20. In addition to the new craft room, Douglas hopes to offer crafting parties for kids' birthdays and other occasions in her expanded space. 
While Kids Fashion Jungle is currently operated by Douglas with some help from her family. She hopes the new space will allow her to grow enough to hire staff, as well as give back to the community. A key element to her business, she says, is supporting local charities that benefit children. 

Source: Tamara Douglas, Kids Fashion Jungle
Writer: Natalie Burg

$5M investment to gear up American Broach for 100 new jobs

American Broach & Machine President Ken Nemec doesn't believe anything happens without big goals and dreams. That's why his cutting tool and broaching machine business has a vision for growth. American Broach's new, 42,880 square-foot Ypsilanti facility is a part of that vision, and the $5 million they plan to invest there will lead to 30 jobs over the next three years. 
But Nemec doesn't plan to stop there. 
"We're aggressively growing our business," he says. "We plan to grow at 30 percent per year for the next three to four years. Within five years, American Broach will grow by about 100 employees, fill both buildings completely, and hopefully triple our total sales."
The $5 million Nemec plans to invest includes the $1 million purchase of the new building, as well as $650,000 to be spent renovating it inside and out, including new lighting, HVAC, and a new blower system. The remainder will be dedicated to new machinery that will allow the company to double its production, as well as training new employees. 
"It's an expensive job to train people," says Nemec. "We have five people in the new training program right now. You have to work at half speed to show them how it works."
Ten of the initial 30 new employees projected have already been hired, and Nemec says the company is always looking for experienced staff. The company's growth has been aided by Ann Arbor SPARK, which has helped American Broach secure incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the City of Ypsilanti. MEDC is offering the company a $13,000 incentive over 12 years, and Ypsilanti has offered them an additional six-year incentive valued at more than $236,000.

Source: Ken Nemec, American Broach
Writer: Natalie Burg

826michigan partners with Beezy's Cafe for evening tutoring

The consolidation of Ypsilanti-area school districts brought with it a lot of changes. Among them was the closing of the school building used by local non-profit 826michigan to bring tutoring services to students. 
"They made some pretty significant changes with building usage," says 826michigan Executive Director Amanda Uhle. "The feasibility of running our program in Willow Run was just working out to be difficult."
Finding an appropriate replacement location was no easy task, but once the idea came about to look outside of the school system for a location, they could think of no better place than Beezy's Café in downtown Ypsilanti.
"As an organization, we are huge fans of the restaurant," says Uhle. "They have done things with us over the years, hosting events and catering a few fundraising things for us."
In addition, Beezy's regular hours make it available during evening hours, rather than the after-school hours 826michigan traditionally held tutoring in Ypsilanti, which often presented a challenge with recruiting volunteers and facilitating transportation for students while their parents were typically at work. Uhle believes this will help attract more students and tutors. Additionally, she hopes the neutral location will be more inviting to students of all ages, as the former middle school location was most convenient for students of that age. 
Uhle estimates that about 75 students per year in Ypsilanti have participated in the tutoring program, and hopes to see that number grow with the new location at Beezy's Café. 826michigan serves even more Ypsilanti students inside schools during school hours, as well as students in Ann Arbor and Detroit. 

Source: Amanda Uhle, 826michigan
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chef Takashi to open Slurping Turtle in downtown Ann Arbor

Before the world knew him from appearances on such television shows as Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters, Takashi Yagihashi knew Ann Arbor. During his nine years as executive chef at Tribute in Farmington Hills, Yagihashi often visited the city on his days off. 
"In the summertime, I went to the art festivals and the farmers market, and I liked to eat at Zingerman's," says Yagihashi. "I feel that it's a very great, international city with a lot of students coming here from out of the country."
He never forgot his love of Ann Arbor, and neither did Michigan forget him. After opening his renowned Chicago restaurants, Takashi and Slurping Turtle, Michiganders would regularly visit, asking when he was coming back to the Mitten. At long last, Yagihashi is satisfying their demands by opening a second Slurping Turtle in the former Borders building downtown. 
"You have a very culture-oriented town. When we were starting to think about a Michigan Slurping Turtle, Ann Arbor came to my head right away," Yagihashi says. "Being across the street from the Michigan Theater, and very close to campus was the perfect location for us."
Yagihashi hopes the 5,296 square-foot restaurant will be open in Feb. of 2014, after completing renovations that will make the restaurant similar in style to his clean, modern, Zen-like Chicago location. The restaurant will seat about 100 diners. He expects to hire a staff of 40 to 50 employee, who will be trained both in Chicago and locally with Chicago-trained staff. 
The Slurping Turtle will offer Ann Arbor diners a flexible menu that Yagihashi says will be suitable for large, fine dining groups, as well as a quick bite. The menu will include both cold and hot tapas, noodles, side dishes and desserts. 

Source: Takashi Yagihashi, Slurping Turtle
Writer: Natalie Burg

New indie bookstore, Bookbound, to open on Plymouth Rd.

The closing of Borders changed everything for a number of Ann Arborites. Among them was Peter Blackshear, who had worked as a bargain book buyer for the national retailer for 12 years. Fortunately for he and wife Megan Blackshear, they still live in a community that loves books, and fortunately for Ann Arbor, the Blackshears are now channeling their specialized skills in the book industry into Bookbound, a new, independent bookstore. 
With a soft opening tentatively set for August, Bookbound will be located in the Courtyard Shops on Plymouth Rd. Blackshear says they were attracted to the small retail and dining development because it feels more like a community than most other non-downtown commercial areas. 
"Courtyard a really nice alternative to downtown," says Megan Blackshear. "A lot of the businesses are owner-operated. It's not a typical strip mall; it's a neighborhood."
Bookbound will feature new books, a generous children's section, a limited number of used books and a bargain book section that will be unique to the traditional independent bookstore model. Using Peter Blackshear's skills as contacts from his Borders days, the pair believes the bargain book section will be key to Bookbound's success.
"One of the big things that is causing the brick and mortar bookstores to suffer is the competition from Amazon and other low-cost retailers," says Blackshear. " By throwing the bargain books in the mix, we'll be able compete with Amazon." 
The 2,400 square foot space, which formerly housed B. Ella Bridal, is now under renovation. The Bookbound website should be completed in a few weeks, and a grand opening is being planned for September. 

Source: Megan Blackshear, Bookbound
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsilanti cosmetologist breaks into retail with beauty supply store

When Richard Smith was growing up, he knew he wanted to become either a scientist, a minister or a cosmetologist. Having worked at Rammos Deluxe Barbershop for six years now, he already achieved the latter, and now he's adding one more career to the list: entrepreneur. 
"I've been a cosmetologist for a long time, and I wanted to try something new," says Smith, who opened VIP Beauty Supply on N. Washington in Ypsilanti earlier this month. "Rather than open a business I had no knowledge of, I decided beauty supplies would be a good idea."
Smith didn't have to look far to find the right location for his store. VIP Beauty Supply is located just a couple of doors down from Rammos, where he is still employed as he works to get VIP Beauty up and running. He says downtown Ypsilanti was the perfect place to open as other area beauty supply stores aren't as accessible for near downtown residents.
The space was under renovation for about six months before opening. Smith took a hands-on approach to the store's development, doing much of the grunt work himself. Though he's not ready to add carpenter to his list of careers, he's not giving up on any of his original aspirations. 
"I had to pick one, but I'm still thinking I'll do all three," he says. 
VIP Beauty Supply offers a variety of hair and nail products, as well as tools, such as clippers and flatirons. The store currently employs a staff of two and can be found under VIPBeautySupply on both Twitter and Instagram. 

Source: Richard Smith, VIP Beauty Supply
Writer: Natalie Burg

Indoor gardening retailer opens on Jackson Rd.

A Michigan-based indoor gardening supplies retailer has opened its seventh location on Jackson Rd. With existing locations in Grand Rapids, Traverse City and the Detroit area, the Cultivation Station expanded into the gardening-friendly Ann Arbor area, bringing with it unique retail items, as well as a wealth of indoor gardening knowledge. 
"We're here to help anyone grow anything," says Cultivation Station Manager Ray Laurent. "My plan is to establish us as not only a resource for products, but also an educational resource. We're here to help."
The approximately 1,000 square foot storefront just west of I-94 opened in April. Laurent says local indoor gardeners will benefit from some of the items they carry that are unavailable elsewhere. He hopes the store will educate gardeners of all types about the number of options made available through indoor options, including hydroponics, aquaponics and organic gardening. 
"One of our main goals is to increase the awareness of the industry as a whole," says Laurent. "In Michigan our growing season is a little short. This is an option to extend your growing in a greenhouse or by setting up a few lights in your house. It's very exciting."

Source: Ray Laurent, Cultivation Station
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dancing Dog Gallery to be "more than a gallery" in former Herb David space

In the words of founding member of the forthcoming Dancing Dog Gallery Missy Cowen, the building formerly occupied by Herb David Guitar Studio in downtown Ann Arbor is about to be a part of a new "art-venture." Cowen and seven other artists are working to renovate the space into something Cowen says will be more than just a place to hang and sell art. 
"Our intention is to be more than a gallery by offering events that support and inspire our community," Cowen says. "In addition to the gallery, we are able to offer private studio workspace for outside artists and classroom space to conduct classes."
Dancing Dog Gallery will feature the art of Cowen and her fellow members, including painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed media art. The group was attracted to the iconic Liberty St. building because of its charming ambiance and welcoming, historic character, as well as its location. 
"We had been looking for a location in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor so we could be in an area that has already demonstrated appreciation for the arts," says Cowen. "With the influx of new businesses and housing to the area, we anticipate a need for quality art."
Cowen anticipates a mid- to late-July opening after renovations are complete. The work now underway includes new flooring, new lighting, and the addition of a bathroom on the second floor. Dancing Dog Gallery will be staffed by the eight founding members.

Source: Missy Cowan, Dancing Dog Gallery
Writer: Natalie Burg

IHA breaks ground on 44,000 sq ft Domino's Farms Medical Center

A big change is underway at Domino's Farms that will change the way a number of local physicians do business and patients receive care. IHA, a local not-for-profit multi-specialty group of physicians recently broke ground on a 41,000 square foot facility at Domino's Farms where a number of existing IHA physicians spread throughout the area will consolidate in one building. 
"Many of our practices are based in regional facility, which our patients tell us offer better access and more services," IHA President and CEO, Bill Fileti. "Our physicians and nurses tell us they like collaboration options that exist with other specialties under the same roof."
The $12 million development will also make IHA offices more regionally accessible, says Fileti. The conveniently located Domino's Farms facility came to be through a longtime relationship between IHA and Domino's Farms' leadership. 
"We expressed what we were trying to accomplish, and they looked a us and said, 'I think we can help,'" says Fileti. "And they were right. We couldn't be more pleased with the location as we feel it will give us a long timer base to meet the needs of the community."
The groundbreaking on the development took place in May, and IHA plans to have the building enclosed in late Nov., and to have practices moving into the building in May 2014.
IHA currently employs more than 1,200 people. The new Domino's Farms Medical Center is expected to foster continued growth to the organization and their number of employees. The new facility will include offices specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, neurology, after hours care, imagine services, as well as other services that will be added. 

Source: Bill Fileti, IHA 
Writer: Natalie Burg

All About Furniture expands footprint with 20,000 sq ft retail space

All About Furniture may be new to Jackson Rd., but owner Sanjay Panjwani has been in the Ann Arbor furniture game for years. The new, 20,000 square foot retail space represents Panjwani's entrance into the general retail market after selling directly to apartment developers and even diving into designing his own furniture. 
"I wanted to take some risks and diversify," Panjwani says. "I was going to buy a warehouse, but this building was available and a good price, so I thought let's try it out." 
The new store opened in the former home of House of Sofas, and Panjwani says the four to five months of renovations he put into the space have entirely transformed the building's look. 
All About Furniture celebrated its grand opening last week. The store includes furniture for all rooms of the home, featuring both Panjwani's own designs as well as other brands. 
"It's a diverse mix," says Panjwani. "It's mid- to high-end. We get all the upholstery made in the USA. Most of the furniture is made in the US, but we do have some imports."
While All About Furniture opens Panjwani's business up to a wider retail market, he'll continue to work directly with developers to furnish entire apartment complexes. He's found an ideal market in campus towns, having already expanded into the South Bend market. He hopes to soon move into the East Lansing market.

Source: Sanjay Panjwani, All About Furniture
Writer: Natalie Burg

Lake Village unveils expanded facilities in residential complex

Chicago-based property management company Habitat has invested in their local apartment complex, Lake Village of Ann Arbor in the form of renovation and expansion of their facilities. The renovations were celebrated with a grand opening celebration in early June and an open house last week. 
"The idea was to improve on what we feel is a premier apartment community in Ann Arbor," says Habitat Regional Vice President Theodore J. Verner Jr. "With our recent renovations, our residents now have access to some of the finest amenities in the Ann Arbor area. "  
The renovations included the expansion and renovation of the fitness center, clubhouse, leasing center, business center and lounge. According to Verner, both residents and employees are thrilled with the upgrades. The investment was part of Habitat's desire to increase the value of their property, as well as further grow their business locally. 
"The Habitat Company’s acquisition team is actively looking to grow the business and increase our total number of units under management," says Verner. "Ann Arbor is one of our core markets and we are looking at expanding in that market."
Source: Theodore J. Verner Jr., Habitat
Writer: Natalie Burg
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